Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How many more days until Spring??

RO: Just about every year for the past 20 years I've gone to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Some years it's better than others - or maybe it's my expectations. Or perhaps there's a direct relationship to how much snow is on the ground! In any event flower show season signals the beginning of the end of winter and a lot of us are ready for that.

This year the theme was Passport to the World and it was one of the best shows in the last 10 years. None of the pictures will do it justice....the giant hot air balloon made out of flowers, the moss elephant, the African manyatta. (In fact those pix wouldn't load for some reason...)

The parrots from the Brazilian garden refused to stay put and there was no shortage of anxiety as they flew around the convention center, screeching and threatening to, um, make a deposit on someone's prized plant.

As usual the orchids were spectacular. As someone who's killed every orchid she's ever touched these other-worldly plants never fail to mesmerize me, and the ones at the show are flawless.
Of course I went to the show for myself..and I do volunteer there at the Horticultural Information Booth. It's one of the most nervewracking things I do all year long.
With the advent of cellphone cameras, anyone can take a picture with their cell and bring it up to the info desk and ask...Why did my plant die? or What's the name of this plant? I think there was only one the hort team couldn't identify, but talk about pressure! Two hundred opportunities to feel like an idiot in a three hour period.

I'm also working on book four in my Dirty Business series which is set at a flower show and the thing that most astounded me in Philly this year was the existence of an urban garden display exactly like one that I had created in my story. It was uncanny! Has anyone ever had that happen...something you've made up turns out to exist??

HANK: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Frighteningly so. Hilariously so. Where to start...
First, I struggled to come up with a name for a very important character in my Charlotte McNally books. He needed a last name--I wanted it to be of indeterminate ehtnicity, strong, two syllables. My first boyfriend (age 10 or so) had the last name "Gelston." So I thought--okay, Gelston, that'll work. But his real first name was (is) Phillip. And I couldn't use that, of course, because of Phillippi in my name.
So I thought: I need a one syllable first name. Strong, masculine, not cute, potentially but not necessarily romantic, appropriate for someone who's fifty or so. Jake, I decided. Ben. Luke. Nick. Sam. Josh. Josh! And so in that complicated way, Josh Gelston was born.
And then soon after PRIME TIME came out, I got an email. And the subject line was: "from Josh Gelston." He was a real guy (and very cool, I might add!) And he has a brother named Ben! And now we're Facebook friends.
And just after I wrote a character who is an undercover investigator for the IRS, it was BIZARRE when a glass mug appeared by the coffee machine in our office--with the logo "Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division." No one knew where it came from.
I have to admit, I'm still a little creeped out by that.
RO: Mundo Bizarro. Life imitating art?
A lot of what we write about is as they say "ripped from the headlines" but what if the headlines are hundreds of years old? In Philly for the show I had a chance to visit with one of my favorite Philadelphians. Stop by tomorrow when we chat with Cordelia Frances Biddle, author of Without Fear, the latest in her Martha Beale series


  1. Wow Ro,

    Being all thumbs, rather than a green thumb in the garden, I'm totally in envy of all your garden expertise and being to answer ANY of those questions. And despite my garden insecurities -- the flower show shows like heaven after this last winter.

    And yes, I always think I'm exaggerating when I come up with the crime ring that underpins all my books. Two weeks after Teaser came out (which was about young teenage girls getting involved in sexualizing themselves on the internet) the national news broke the story about all those teenage girls "sexting" their photos to each other online and via cell phone.
    Vindicating in a way, but just so freaking alarming it was actually true.

  2. Oh, like heaven, EXCEPT For the Parrots. After having a Quaker for nine years, my heaven would definitely NOT contain any parrots.

  3. The flower show! Must be spring. We will be having one here in Boston, too, after much sturm and drang over where it would be held. And I was out doing yard clean up yesterday since we're having an early spring.

    In my new novel which I just submitted to the publisher (working title: "Come and Find Me") I conjured all kinds of electronic devices (like a digital lojack where your computer can 'phone home' if it gets hijacked) and discovered most of them actually exist. Way cool.